Major depression is a more severe form of depression, where more of the symptoms of depression are present and intensified. People who suffer from major depression have more than just a case of the blues, and will likely require medical treatment in order to regain their mental health.
Causes of Major Depression
Like other forms of depression, major depression can develop slowly over time, or be the result of a single, catalyzing event in the patient’s life. It is not yet known what exactly causes depression. Theories include; brain chemistry – some depression patients may not produce enough of certain hormones or neuro-receptors, and psychology – certain personality types may be more prone to episodes of depression than others.
Researchers have found that if a patient has more than one episode of major depression, stress will be a major factor in the development of the first two episodes. But any subsequent periods of major depression in that patient’s life can be brought on by other factors and stress might not have any role. Patients who have more than two episodes of major depression are likely made more vulnerable by their personality or family history.
Signs and Symptoms of Major Depression
A person who is experiencing major depression may exhibit any of the following symptoms:
- Low, sad or anxious mood
- Hostility, irritability or restlessness
- Apathetic, pessimistic or hopeless attitude
- Difficulty with social or work related situations
- TroublesSleeping or constant fatigue
- Loss of interest in activities that once brought pleasure
- Low sexual interest or ability
- Pacing, hyperactivity or constant fidgeting
- Loss of appetite and/or weight loss, or weight gain and over eating
- Feelings of guiltyor worthlessness
- Difficulty focusing, concentrating, making decisions or memory problems
- Chronic pain, headaches, digestive difficulties, which do not respond to treatment
- Thoughts of suicide or death
Treatments for Major Depression
Surprisingly little research has be done into the various methods of treating major depression and opinion on the effectiveness of each method is divided. The current methods used to treat major depression are:
- Cognitive Therapy:
Cognitive therapy works to change the way the patient perceives their world and their problems. By working to alter over-critical self-evaluations, unrealistic expectations and pessimism, cognitive therapy helps those suffering from depression to differentiate between major and minor life-problems and deal with them accordingly. Cognitive therapy has been proven to help depressed patients by introducing them to new coping skills, and altering their attitudes and perceptions.
Medication for depression should be used in tandem with therapy, not on its own. Medication can help some patients who suffer from major depression become more receptive to the therapeutic process. As with all prescription medications, antidepressants carry the risk of side effects – some of which may not yet be known because they have not been in use for long enough. Anti-depressants should only be taken under a doctor’s supervision.
Involves several different therapeutic techniques, however, the commonalities are that the patient talks to their psychiatrist or psychologist on a regular basis about a wide range of personal topics. The aim is to discover the root of the patient’s depression, so that it can be resolved.
- Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT):
This therapy must be conducted under the close supervision of medical professionals and is usually completed on an in-patient basis. For ECT, the patient is anesthetized, and temporarily paralyzed. Electrodes are placed on the temples, or one electrode is placed on the temple and the other is placed on the forehead, depending on the intended location of the shock. An electrical current is passed through one electrode, through the brain, and then out through the other electrode. Essentially, this causes a grand mal seizure. Opinion regarding the effectiveness of ECT is varied. While ECT does help some patients, it is not known exactly why it helps them.
- Dietary Supplements:
St John’s Wort is an herb, often used to elevate mood and treat mild depression. Unfortunately, studies have shown that it has no effect on major depression. Omega 3 Fatty Acids have been shown to help elevate mood and decrease depression in clinical trials.
5-Hydroxytryptophan, a compound found in foods such as turkey and cheese, has a similar molecular structure to serotonin and has been shown to help elevate mood. It can be purchased as a dietary supplement.
Gingko Balboa, an herb, can help to aid concentration by helping the body to better absorb glucose.
Siberian Ginseng can help to combat stress, often a precursor to major depression.
Zinc has been shown to have an anti-depressant effect when 25 mg/day is taken.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to depression. Supplementation will ensure that the body is getting adequate amounts.
It is believed that regular exercise can help depressed patients recover more quickly. Exercising stimulates the brains production of "feel good" chemicals, such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.
Meditation can also be used a complimentary therapy, as it relaxes the body and reduces stress.
Prevention of Major Depression
There is no sure way to prevent episodes of major depression. However, one should be vigilant for the signs that a depression may be beginning, and seek treatment immediately. Since stress is also a major factor in the development of major depression, it is important to develop coping skills to help you deal with stressful situations, try not to be overly critical of yourself and try to look on the bright-side once in a while.